Engineering and Computing sees internships increase

Courtesy Photo /
Paul Plotkowski, Dean of Seymour & Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing

Courtesy Photo / Paul Plotkowski, Dean of Seymour & Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing

Eric Higgins

The number of engineering and computing internships available for Grand Valley State University students is on the rise.

According to a GVSU press release, internships for engineering students increased by 42 percent in 2010, while computing and information systems co-ops have increased by 31 percent since 2009. The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing is the only GVSU department with a co-op program, which allows students to work for a semester in their chosen field of study and then take classes the following semester.

Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, said that the rise in engineering and computing can be attributed to the diverse industries in West Michigan.

“West Michigan has a very diverse employer base,” said Plotkowski. “This includes the design and manufacturing of everything from aerospace systems to biomedical devices and automation. All of these industries have a tremendous need for a talented engineering and computing work force.”

Students in the school of engineering are required to complete external internships or co-op programs before they graduate.

Tom Demmon, the associate director for GVSU Career Services, said that more companies are hiring interns now to help recover from the recession because interns are temporary and cost less money than a full-time employee.

“When they started to recover, they were a little reluctant to add permanent employees that have more of a commitment; but they could add a co-op or an intern with a lot less one, commitment for time and secondly, a lot less money, quite frankly,” Demmon said.

Many of the students that apply for engineering and computing internships in West Michigan come from the surrounding area.

“Roughly 40 percent of the students who attend GVSU are from West Michigan, and the portion of engineering and computing students is consistent with that,” said Plotkowski.

After graduation, many former GVSU students are staying in West Michigan to find jobs.

“The two most common remarks by our graduates about staying in West Michigan after graduation are that they already had a relationship with an employer via their co-op or internship, and that the quality of life in West Michigan is hard to beat,” Plotkowski said. “They want to live in the area and they are already connected.”

Demmon said he has heard from employers that they won’t look at a resume when they want to hire someone if the person does not have internship experience. He also said that the biggest challenge with internships is finding the right balance between students who want internships and businesses that want to hire interns.

“We can go out and recruit all the students and get them excited about internships and if they can’t find a good one, and an employer, that doesn’t work, so it is kind of like fishing in a pond that has no fish,” Demmon said. “Or the other way too, the employer that gets all excited and tries to hire a student and can’t find anybody that fits their needs.”

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